Profs Say Undergrads Need To Hone Research Abilities

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting on the latest Ithaka S+R Faculty Survey showing an uptick in faculty members who believe undergraduate students are arriving at college with inadequate research skills.

The report is authored by Christine Wolff, Alisa B. Rod, and Roger C. Schonfeld, all of Ithaka S+R, the consulting-and-research arm of the nonprofit group Ithaka, which focuses on technology in academe.

This latest edition of a survey that is conducted every three years found an uptick in faculty members who believe undergraduate students are arriving at college with inadequate research skills. Many faculty members believe their institution’s library plays a critical role in helping students develop those skills. Scholars increasingly see it as their responsibility to support their undergraduate students, with an emphasis on competencies and learning outcomes.

Now in its sixth cycle, the survey included more than 9,000 scholars in the fall of 2015 at four-year institutions in the United States, and found, among other things, that:

  • Fifty-four percent “strongly agreed” that their undergraduate students have “poor skills related to locating and evaluating scholarly information,” up from 47 percent in 2012.
  • The share of scholars who think libraries help students “develop research, critical-analysis, and information-literacy skills” is up 20 percentage points from 2012.

Bottom Line: When it comes to undergraduate students, the professors are more concerned than ever about students’ inability to conduct research adequately.

This is important information for law librarians because our instruction currently focuses on building research skills gained prior to law school. In the years to come, we may have to do more remedial research education to bring our law students up to speed.

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